List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew, V2, by Eugene Sue
< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Saint-Dizier House.

It is for the purpose, not of excusing, but of rendering intelligible,
the following scenes, that it is deemed necessary to bring out into the
light some striking peculiarities in the truly original character of Miss
de Cardoville.

This originality consisted in an excessive independence of mind, joined
to a natural horror of whatsoever is repulsive or deformed, and to an
insatiable desire of being surrounded by everything attractive and
beautiful.  The painter most delighted with coloring and beauty, the
sculptor most charmed by proportions of form, feel not more than Adrienne
did the noble enthusiasm which the view of perfect beauty always excites
in the chosen favorites of nature.

And it was not only the pleasures of sight which this young lady loved to
gratify: the harmonious modulations of song, the melody of instruments,
the cadences of poetry, afforded her infinite pleasures; while a harsh
voice or a discordant noise made her feel the same painful impression, or
one nearly as painful as that which she involuntarily experienced from
the sight of a hideous object.  Passionately fond of flowers, too, and of
their sweet scents, there are some perfumes which she enjoyed equally
with the delights of music or those of plastic beauty.  It is necessary,
alas, to acknowledge one enormity: Adrienne was dainty in her food!  She
valued more than any one else the fresh pulp of handsome fruit, the
delicate savor of a golden pheasant, cooked to a turn, and the odorous
cluster of a generous vine.

But Adrienne enjoyed all these pleasures with an exquisite reserve.  She
sought religiously to cultivate and refine the senses given her.  She
would have deemed it black ingratitude to blunt those divine gifts by
excesses, or to debase them by unworthy selections of objects upon which
to exercise them; a fault from which, indeed, she was preserved by the
excessive and imperious delicacy of her taste.

The BEAUTIFUL and the UGLY occupied for her the places which GOOD and
EVIL holds for others.

Her devotion to grace, elegance, and physical beauty, had led her also to
the adoration of moral beauty; for if the expression of a low and bad
passion render uncomely the most beautiful countenances, those which are
in themselves the most ugly are ennobled, on the contrary, by the
expression of good feelings and generous sentiments.

In a word, Adrienne was the most complete, the most ideal personification
of SENSUALITY--not of vulgar, ignorant, non intelligent, mistaken
sensuousness which is always deceit ful and corrupted by habit or by the
necessity for gross and ill-regulated enjoyments, but that exquisite
sensuality which is to the senses what intelligence is to the soul.

The independence of this young lady's character was extreme.  Certain
humiliating subjections imposed upon her success by its social position,
above all things were revolting to her, and she had the hardihood to
resolve to withdraw herself from them.  She was a woman, the most
womanish that it is possible to imagine--a woman in her timidity as well
as in her audacity--a woman in her hatred of the brutal despotism of men,
as well as in her intense disposition to self-devoting herself, madly
even and blindly, to him who should merit such a devotion from her--a
woman whose piquant wit was occasionally paradoxical--a superior woman,
in brief, who entertained a well-grounded disdain and contempt for
certain men either placed very high or greatly adulated, whom she had
from time to time met in the drawing-room of her aunt, the Princess
Saint-Dizier, when she resided with her.

These indispensable explanations being given, we usher, the reader into
the presence of Adrienne de Cardoville, who had just come out of the

It would require all the brilliant colorings of the Venetian school to
represent that charming scene, which would rather seem to have occurred
in the sixteenth century, in some palace of Florence or Bologna, than in
Paris, in the Faubourg Saint-Germain, in the month of February, 1832.

Adrienne's dressing-room was a kind of miniature temple seemingly one
erected and dedicated to the worship of beauty, in gratitude to the Maker
who has lavished so many charms upon woman, not to be neglected by her,
or to cover and conceal them with ashes, or to destroy them by the
contact of her person with sordid and harsh haircloth; but in order that,
with fervent gratitude for the divine gifts wherewith she is endowed, she
may enhance her charms with all the illusions of grace and all the
splendors of apparel, so as to glorify the divine work of her own
perfections in the eyes of all.  Daylight was admitted into this
semicircular apartment, through one of those double windows, contrived
for the preservation of heat, so happily imported from Germany.  The
walls of the pavilion being constructed of stone of great thickness, the
depth of the aperture for the windows was therefore very great.  That of
Adrienne's dressing-room was closed on the outside by a sash containing a
single large pane of plate glass, and within, by another large plate of
ground glass.  In the interval or space of about three feet left between
these two transparent enclosures, there was a case or box filled with
furze mould, whence sprung forth climbing plants, which, directed round
the ground glass, formed a rich garland of leaves and flowers.  A garnet
damask tapestry, rich with harmoniously blended arabesques, in the purest
style, covered the walls and a thick carpet of similar color was extended
over the floor: and this sombre ground, presented by the floor and walls,
marvellously enhanced the effects of all the harmonious ornaments and
decorations of the chamber.

Under the window, opposite to the south, was placed Adrienne's dressing-
case, a real masterpiece of the skill of the goldsmith.  Upon a large
tablet of lapis-lazuli, there were scattered boxes of jewels, their lids
precisely enamelled ; several scent boxes of rock crystal, and other
implements and utensils of the toilet, some formed of shells, some of
mother-of-pearl, and others of ivory, covered with ornaments of gold in
extraordinary taste.  Two large figures, modelled in silver with antique
purity; supported an oval swing mirror, which had for its rim, in place
of a frame curiously carved, a fresh garland of natural flowers, renewed
every day like a nosegay for a ball.

Two enormous Japanese vases, of purple and gold, three feet each in
diameter, were placed upon the carpet on each side of the toilet, and,
filled with camellias, ibiscures, and cape jasmine, in full flower formed
a sort of grove, diversified with the most brilliant colors.  At the
farther end of the apartment, opposite the casement, was to be seen,
surrounded by another mass of flowers, a reduction in white marble of the
enchanting group of Daphnis and Chloe, the more chaste ideal of graceful
modesty and youthful beauty.

Two golden lamps burned perfumes upon the same pedestal which supported
those two charming figures.  A coffer of frosted silver, set off with
small figures in jewelry and precious stones, and supported on four feet
of gilt bronze, contained various necessaries for the toilette; two
frosted Psyches, decorated with diamond ear-rings; some excellent
drawings from Raphael and Titian, painted by Adrienne herself, consisting
of portraits of both men and women of exquisite beauty; several consoles
of oriental jasper, supporting ewers and basins of silver and of silver
gilt, richly chased and filled with scented waters; a voluptuously rich
divan, some seats, and an illuminated gilt fable, completed the furniture
of this chamber, the atmosphere of which was impregnated with the
sweetest perfumes.

Adrienne, whom her attendants had just helped from the bath, was seated
before her toilette, her three women surrounding her.  By a caprice, or
rather by a necessary and logical impulse of her soul, filled as it was
with the love of beauty and of harmony in all things, Adrienne had wished
the young women who served her to be very pretty, and be dressed with
attention and with a charming originality.  We have already seen
Georgette, a piquante blonde, attired in her attractive costume of an
intriguing lady's maid of Marivaux; and her two companions were quite
equal to her both in gracefulness and gentility.

One of them, named Florine, a tall, delicately slender, and elegant girl,
with the air and form of Diana Huntress, was of a pale brown complexion.
Her thick black hair was turned up behind, where it was fastened with a
long golden pin.  Like the two other girls, her arms were uncovered to
facilitate the performance of her duties about and upon the person of her
charming mistress.  She wore a dress of that gay green so familiar to the
Venetian painters.  Her petticoat was very ample.  Her slender waist
curved in from under the plaits of a tucker of white cambric, plaited in
five minute folds, and fastened by five gold buttons.  The third of
Adrienne's women had a face so fresh and ingenuous, a waist so delicate,,
so pleasing, and so finished, that her mistress had given her the name of
Hebe.  Her dress of a delicate rose color, and Grecian cut, displayed her
charming neck, and her beautiful arms up to the very shoulders.  The
physiognomy of these three young women was laughter loving and happy.  On
their features there was no expression of that bitter sullenness, willing
and hated obedience, or offensive familiarity, or base and degraded
deference, which are the ordinary results of a state of servitude.  In
the zealous eagerness of the cares and attentions which they lavished
upon Adrienne, there seemed to be at least as much of affection as of
deference and respect.  They appeared to derive an ardent pleasure from
the services which they rendered to their lovely mistress.  One would
have thought that they attached to the dressing and embellishment of her
person all the merits and the enjoyment arising from the execution of a
work of art, in the accomplishing of which, fruitful of delights, they
were stimulated by the passions of love, of pride, and of joy.

The sun beamed brightly upon the toilet-case, placed in front of the
window.  Adrienne was seated on a chair, its back elevated a little more
than usual.  She was enveloped in a long morning-gown of blue silk,
embroidered with a leaf of the same color, which was fitted close to her
waist, as exquisitely slender and delicate as that of a child of twelve
years, by a girdle with floating tags.  Her neck, delicately slender and
flexible as a bird's, was uncovered, as were also her shoulders and arms,
and all were of incomparable beauty.  Despite the vulgarity of the
comparison, the purest ivory alone can give an idea of the dazzling
whiteness of her polished satin skin, of a texture so fresh and so firm,
that some drops of water, collected and still remaining about the roots
of her hair from the bath, rolled in serpentine lines over her shoulders,
like pearls, or beads, of crystal, over white marble.

And what gave enhanced lustre to this wondrous carnation, known but to
auburn-headed beauties, was the deep purple of her, humid lips,--the
roseate transparency of her small ears, of her dilated nostrils, and her
nails, as bright and glossy, as if they had been varnished.  In every
spot, indeed, where her pure arterial blood, full of animation and heat,
could make its way to the skin and shine through the surface, it
proclaimed her high health and the vivid life and joyous buoyancy of her
glorious youth.  Her eyes were very large, and of a velvet softness.  Now
they glanced, sparkling and shining with comic humor or intelligence and
wit; and now they widened and extended themselves, languishing and
swimming between their double fringes of long crisp eyelashes, of as deep
a black as her finely-drawn and exquisitely arched eyebrows; for, by a
delightful freak of nature, she had black eyebrows and eyelashes to
contrast with the golden red of her hair.  Her forehead, small like those
of ancient Grecian statues, formed with the rest of her face a perfect
oval.  Her nose, delicately curved, was slightly aquiline; the enamel of
her teeth glistened when the light fell upon them; and her vermeil mouth
voluptuously sensual, seemed to call for sweet kisses, and the gay smiles
and delectations of dainty and delicious pleasure.  It is impossible to
behold or to conceive a carriage of the head freer, more noble, or more
elegant than hers; thanks to the great distance which separated the neck
and the ear from their attachment to her outspread and dimpled shoulders.
We have already said that Adrienne was red-haired; but it was the redness
of many of the admirable portraits of women by Titian and Leonardo da
Vinci,--that is to say, molten gold presents not reflections more
delightfully agreeable or more glittering, than the naturally undulating
mass of her very long hair, as soft and fine as silk, so long, that, when
let loose, it reached the floor; in it, she could wholly envelop herself,
like another Venus arising from the sea.  At the present moment,
Adrienne's tresses were ravishing to behold; Georgette, her arms bare,
stood behind her mistress, and had carefully collected into one of her
small white hands, those splendid threads whose naturally ardent
brightness was doubled in the sunshine.  When the pretty lady's-maid
pulled a comb of ivory into the midst of the undulating and golden waves
of that enormously magnificent skein of silk, one might have said that a
thousand sparks of fire darted forth and coruscated away from it in all
directions.  The sunshine, too, reflected not less golden and fiery rays
from numerous clusters of spiral ringlets, which, divided upon Adrienne's
forehead, fell over her cheeks, and in their elastic flexibility caressed
the risings of her snowy bosom, to whose charming undulations they
adapted and applied themselves.  Whilst Georgette, standing, combed the
beautiful locks of her mistress, Hebe, with one knee upon the floor, and
having upon the other the sweet little foot of Miss Cardoville, busied
herself in fitting it with a remarkably small shoe of black satin, and
crossed its slender ties over a silk stocking of a pale yet rosy flesh-
color, which imprisoned the smallest and finest ankle in the world.
Florine, a little farther back, presented to her mistress, in a jeweled
box, a perfumed paste, with which Adrienne slightly rubbed her dazzling
hands and outspread fingers, which seemed tinted with carmine to their
extremities.  Let us not forget Frisky, who, couched in the lap of her
mistress, opened her great eyes with all her might, and seemed to observe
the different operations of Adrienne's toilette with grave and reflective
attention.  A silver bell being sounded from without, Florine, at a sign
from her mistress, went out and presently returned, bearing a letter upon
a small silver-gilt salve.  Adrienne, while her women continued fitting
on her shoes, dressing her hair, and arranging her in her habiliments,
took the letter, which was written by the steward of the estate of
Cardoville, and read aloud as follows:

< < Previous Page     Next Page > >

Other sites: